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US soldiers: Blackwater attacked fleeing Iraqi civilians

American troops investigating the deadly Sept. 16 incident in Baghdad found no evidence that security contractors were fired upon.

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The Blackwater security forces that opened fire on a public square in Baghdad last month, leaving 17 dead, attacked fleeing Iraqi civilians in a "criminal event," according to American soldiers on the scene just minutes after the incident. News of the Army report comes just a day after the families of three Iraqis killed in the September 16 incident, along with another Iraqi man who was injured, filed a lawsuit against Blackwater in US federal court. The fallout over the incident has made it increasingly difficult for contractors to operate in Iraq, and also Afghanistan.

The Washington Post says that according to their report, the US soldiers – after investigations at the square and interviews with witnesses and Iraqi police – found no evidence that any Iraqis had fired weapons and concluded that there was "no enemy activity involved." They did find evidence, however, that indicated Blackwater contractors fired on civilian vehicles fleeing the square.

"It appeared to me they were fleeing the scene when they were engaged. It had every indication of an excessive shooting," said Lt. Col. Mike Tarsa, whose soldiers reached Nisoor Square 20 to 25 minutes after the gunfire subsided.
Tarsa said they found no evidence to indicate that the Blackwater guards were provoked or entered into a confrontation. "I did not see anything that indicated they were fired upon," said Tarsa, 42, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. He also said it appeared that several drivers had made U-turns and were moving away from Nisoor Square when their vehicles were hit by gunfire from Blackwater guards.
"Blackwater created and fostered a culture of lawlessness amongst its employees, encouraging them to act in the company's financial interests at the expense of innocent human life," the 17-page complaint says. Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell said the company was aware of the lawsuit and would defend itself vigorously. She declined to comment further on the Nisoor Square incident until an ongoing FBI investigation is completed.

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